Two Trees has revealed the full extent of its plan for the old Domino sugar refinery site: A SHoP Architects-designed rethink of the 11-acre site. The SHoP designs, which we got a peek at last week, are very simply a huge step forward architecturally and are a refreshing change from the same-old, same-old we’ve come to expect from new buildings in Brooklyn. If implemented, the new design will more than triple the amount of office space in the neighborhood, adding more than 600,000 square feet of commercial space, and increase the overall square footage of the site by 10 percent.
Rendering Courtesy SHoP Architects and James Corner Field Operations
When Two Trees bought the Domino development in South Williamsburg from CPC Resources last in last July, the Dumbo-based developer inherited a set of plans that had made it through the city’s arduous land use review process (having been approved by City Planning in June 2010). The biggest reason to cheer about the design that CPC Resources had put in place, as far as we were concerned, was the preservation of the historic brick refinery building; the rest of the project, a series of predictable medium-height towers, were about what you would expect design-wise. When Two Trees took control of the site, Jed Walentas made it known that he and his team were going to do a complete rethink of the project (including soliciting community input); not that they would necessarily end up proposing a different plan, but they weren’t just going to accept that the CPC design was the optimal use for the site. This made some sense, since Two Trees was starting out with more leverage than CPC had five years earlier. “We can try and rezone this, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll just go back to what we’ve got,” he told The Observer. “It’s not like we’ve got the choice between something or nothing. We’ve got the choice between what has been proposed and what we might want to do.”
More recently, The Wall Street Journal reported from behind its firewall, Two Trees had decided that the project should include a substantial commercial component. Presumably taking a cue from the success of the mixed-use environment the developer had nurtured in Dumbo, Walentas told The Journal that “[solely residential complexes] don’t make great urban places, they don’t integrate into the neighborhoods. What we’re trying really, really hard to do here is to mix in enough commercial office space to give this neighborhood and this community a sense of that feeling of vitality.”
More details on the new design: Under the new plan, the old refinery building will stay and will be completely given over to commercial. A second building at the north end of the site will also house office space. The amount of total residential square feet will actually decline from 2.4 million to less than 2.3 million (a developer voluntarily reducing residential square feet? a first?) though the maximum height of the tallest building would increase dramatically — from 340 feet to 598 feet. The last important change in the new plan is an overhaul of the public space, which will increase from around 140,000 square feet to more than 225,000 square feet and, in the process, create a much more usable, vibrant and engaging connection between the old neighborhood and the waterfront. Plans include a kayak launch, esplanade, floating pool and cold season ice-skating rink, according to The New York Post. The developer said in its press release that it was working with the city to include all 660 units of affordable housing originally envisioned for the project; to that end, 50 percent of the units in the first residential building will be affordable. Assuming the affordable component won’t end up being compromised, we think this new plan is probably the most exciting plan for new construction in Brooklyn we’ve ever seen. Check out the doughnut building! Let’s hope it can carry the day.